Types of early childhood services

There are many early childhood services available to families. These services may be offered by private providers, community groups, government agencies, individuals, babysitters or nannies. Some organisations offer more than 1 of these services.

Find an overview of types of available early childhood services on this page.

Long day care

Long day care is a centre-based service (sometimes called a child care centre) that provides education and care for children aged from birth to age 6. Some centres also provide education and care to school-age children out of school hours.

Find a long day care service

Search for 'long day care' using the service type filter on StartingBlocks.

Family day care

Family day care is a child care service offering families affordable, personalised care by a qualified educator in a safe and nurturing home environment. Educators may care for up to 7 children at the same time, with no more than 4 children under school age. The service is for children from birth to 12 years.

Local qualified family day care staff monitor and support educators in their home.

Some educators also offer overnight or weekend care. This flexibility may suit shift-workers or people who are on call.

Find a family day care service

Search for 'family day care' using the service type filter on StartingBlocks.

Out of school hours care (OSHC)

Out of school hours care is available to school-aged children:

  • before and after school
  • usually on pupil-free days during the school term
  • sometimes during school holidays.

Find an OSHC service

Search for 'outside school hours care' using the service type filter on StartingBlocks.

Children's centres or integrated early childhood services

Children's centres are supported by the state government. They bring together care, education, health, community development activities and family services for families and their young children. Integrated early childhood services offer a combination of 2 or more services.

Services offered at children's centres vary from centre to centre and may include child care, playgroup, preschool, early education and learning, early development, health services and family support services.

Children's centres help parents and children get the support they need, when they need it, within their own community. Each centre may offer a slightly different mix of services depending on the needs of the community.

Early childhood services work closely together to provide the best support for children's development and families. Families can also be connected with other families and groups in the community with similar interests.

Find a children's centre or integrated childhood service

Find a children's centre near you – Department for Education.

Playgroups and play centres

These options offer parents with babies and toddlers the opportunity to meet regularly with other parents, share experiences and build a support network. In playgroups parents generally participate in play-based learning that supports the child's growth and development.

Find a playgroup or play centre

Preschool and kindergarten

Preschools are sometimes called kindergartens. They may be run by government, private or community providers.

Children who will be starting school within the next year (4 to 5-year-olds) can attend preschool. Some 3-year-olds are also eligible to attend.

Children usually attend up to 4 sessions per week for up to 4 terms.

Preschools may be:

  • a stand alone preschool centre
  • co-located with a school
  • co-located with another child care service.

Find a preschool

Find a government preschool – Department for Education.

Occasional care

Occasional care is sessional occasional child care for babies, toddlers and children under school age. In South Australia, occasional care is generally offered through government preschools and in some child care centres.

Who can use occasional care

Occasional care can be used to participate in a range of activities including non-work and casual work commitments.

First priority of access is given to children:

  • under the guardianship of the minister
  • at risk of serious abuse and neglect
  • in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families
  • with a parent whose disability or health condition affects their parenting
  • with a disability or additional needs, or both
  • in socially isolated families.

Second priority is given to low-income families with an Australian government Pensioner Concession or Health Care Card.

Occasional care is generally provided in small day care centres and may also be available in some child care centres, preschools, family day care homes, nanny and babysitting services or through the in-home care program.

Find an occasional care service

Find occasional care providers – Care for Kids (SA).

In-home care

In-home care is child care delivered in your family home. The program is for families who need this care the most. It focuses on high-quality early childhood education and care, provided by qualified educators.

This program is only available if other types of child care are not suitable or available. This could be because:

  • the child has an illness or disability, or lives with another child who has an illness or disability
  • the parent or guardian has an illness or disability that affects their ability to care for the child
  • the child lives in a rural or remote area
  • the parent or guardian is a shift worker or works non-standard hours when no other approved childcare is available
  • the parent or guardian is the primary carer for 3 or more children.

Find an in-home care service

Search for 'in home care' using the service type filter on StartingBlocks.

Learning Together Communities program

The Learning Together Communities program helps families engage in their children's learning. This makes a positive difference for both adults and children.

The program offers a universal standard of playgroups and parent education courses in department managed communities across South Australia. It can help you connect with other families and family friendly service providers.

Learning Together Communities program – Department for Education.

Waiting lists

Some child care services use waiting lists to help them manage high demand. To avoid situations where there is no vacancy at the service you wish to use, put your name on their waiting list.

Priority guidelines for allocating places make sure that places are allocated to families with the greatest need for child care.

Related information

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      Page last updated 21 September 2022

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